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By Benetrends • January 27, 2020

How to Help Your Family Survive and Thrive as Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs starting a small business quickly learn their loved ones will be impacted, even if their start-up plan doesn’t roadmap the venture as a family business. Starting a small business is time and labor-intensive, sometimes emotional, and always a challenge. When your family is involved, there’s a layer of nuance that could make running the business more complicated. 

Here are some tips to start a business with your family and keep it running successfully.

Don’t Just Survive—Thrive in the Family Business

Starting a small business can feel like a blessing and a curse. From market issues to labor, small business funding, and more, entrepreneurship is not an easy venture.

It gets trickier if you involve a relative in the business model. Having a spouse or a sibling as a partner can add the emotionalism of the relationship to the ups and downs of the business. If you fail to fully define responsibilities or if your vision for the business isn’t on the same page, it can cause frustration and hamper the productivity of the entire team.

Family-owned companies are the heartbeat of commerce in the US. There are many advantages to these models, including access to low or no-cost labor as the business builds. Family members can also be a source of small business funding if needed. According to StartupNation, some experts recommend not hiring family members at all due to the potential messy nature of adding personal relationships into a small business start-up. At the same time, countless small companies have thrived by reaping the benefits of the family structure to build the business.

Thriving in a small family business requires some clear definitions of how your loved ones will function under the model. For example:

  • Put these business relationships in writing with clear definitions of duties, ownership, and other responsibilities and rewards, just like you would with any other employee or partner. Don’t make the mistake of relying on verbal agreements with someone you love. Formalize and professionalize the arrangement by putting everything in writing.
  • Set boundaries allowing you to leave work where it belongs—outside the home and the regular family relationship. 
  • Define regular communication paths such as weekly meetings with agendas designed to resolve any disputes or air hard feelings if they occur.
  • Don’t take advantage of family members. Make work schedules and pay fair to everyone. Don’t set lower or higher standards just because they’re family members.
  • Find a trusted advisor outside the family to help you navigate entrepreneurship. Look for financial and business advice from experts on small business and 401(k) funding as well as basic business necessities such as labor or accounting.

Father typing on an old fashioned typewriter and a son typing on a laptop computer.

Starting a small family business can be fraught with strong emotions. But a family business is business. Don’t make the mistake of overemphasizing family relationships over the business model. Also avoid bringing family squabbles into the workplace, which will make you and your employees very uncomfortable. If you can follow these rules, your business and your family will thrive.

For more small business tips, check out our Resource Center today.